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Unique testing facility tackles extreme ultraviolet light

26 April 2017 • 5 min reading time

The assembly of Extreme Ultra Violet Exposure and Analysis Facility number 2 (EBL2) was completed within one year. An outstanding achievement by TNO and its partners, and a giant leap forwards in the semiconductor industry’s Extreme Ultra Violet lithography roadmap, with Carl Zeiss SMT and ASML as frontrunners. “EBL2 allows to drastically shorten the development time for new materials and components used in the manufacture of chips.”

Abundant data, that is available anytime, anywhere. We think this is the most natural thing in the world. To create chips for our smartphones, cars and computers that have ever greater computing power and storage capacity, lithography machines are being developed that can inscribe increasingly finer details. This is a complex challenge for chip manufacturers, in the light of an ongoing trend towards ever smaller, energy efficient and cost-efficient chips. Using ultraviolet light with a very short wavelength (extreme ultraviolet light, or EUV), it is possible to create ever finer details, down to a little smaller than 7 nanometres (less than 7 billionths of a metre). ASML is already supplying such advanced lithography machines to chip manufacturers, such as Intel, TSMC and Samsung. However, to make the most effective use of EUV technology, manufacturers need to boost the power of these machines, which will involve a lot more research.

Up to 100 times faster

Testing speeds like this are now quite feasible, thanks to the EBL2. This facility commenced operations on 27 March 2017, in TNO’s Van Leeuwenhoek Lab (VLL). It is an unparalleled testing facility – a great leap forward on the road to highly advanced EUV lithography technology. Details of EUV’s interaction with various materials and components can now be obtained in a matter of hours. So materials and components can be tested up to 100 times faster than was possible with EBL1 (EBL2’s predecessor).

Map of the EBL2.

Much shorter development time

Arnold Stokking, the Managing Director of TNO Industry, explains that “This testing facility enables us to simulate very high power levels, and to study their effects on materials and components. New components developed for EUV lithography machines can be tested immediately. A case in point is a mirror developed by ASML’s partner, Carl Zeiss SMT, a manufacturer of optical systems for the semiconductor industry. EBL2 allows to drastically shorten the development time for new materials and components used in the manufacture of chips. This is because it is no longer necessary for manufacturers or customers to test materials themselves.”

“With the arrival of EBL2, it is now possible to analyse and characterize the contamination behaviour and durability of materials and components that are exposed to EUV at greatly accelerated speed”

Contamination and absorption

One of the greatest problems in EUV lithography is contamination. It becomes even more of a problem as the structures on chips shrink and the power of the light beams increases (higher productivity). Another problem is the resulting absorption of EUV light by system components, such as the mirrors used to steer the light beam onto the wafers (the semiconductor material from which chips are made). In the corresponding worst-case scenario, contamination can result in chips that do not work at all. If part of the EUV beam is absorbed, then the wafers may not be adequately exposed. Both issues can result in very expensive failures, which is why the semiconductor industry is keen to avoid them. With the arrival of EBL2, it is now possible to analyse and characterize the contamination behaviour and durability of materials and components that are exposed to EUV at greatly accelerated speed. This enables manufacturers in the semiconductor industry to develop materials that prevent contamination and that absorb as little EUV as possible.

Reliable R&D partner

The EBL2 represents a major milestone for TNO and for Carl Zeiss SMT. “For nearly 18 years now we have been tackling the enormous challenges associated with the development of advanced EUV lithography”, says Andreas Dorsel, board member and CTO/COO at Carl Zeiss SMT. “Thanks to the expertise and experience of the business community, the educational sector, and research institutes like TNO, we have been able to create something that many companies in the semiconductor industry have a great need for. TNO is a reliable research and development partner, with a long and distinguished track record. There is a real need for institutions like this, being able to bridge the gap between scientific research and applications in everyday life.”

Dr Rogier Verberk, Dr Herbert Wituschek, Kawamura Naoki, Dr Andreas Dorsel, Paul de Krom and Arnold Stokking during the opening.

Mutual trust

For many years now, TNO has been assisting the semiconductor industry in the development of successive generations of equipment, including lithography machines. One of the challenges tackled in this context involves managing contamination levels at the nano scale. The trust and cooperation extended by ASML and Carl Zeiss SMT have been indispensable in this regard. Arnold points out that “Without the cooperation and commitment of several thousand individuals at ASML and Carl Zeiss SMT, we would not have been able to develop the EBL2. Together, we have developed a testing facility that is fully compliant with specifications for the upcoming five to ten years. I am convinced that, together, we can achieve even greater things in the future”.

“There is a real need for institutions like TNO, which are able to bridge the gap between scientific research and applications in everyday life”

Vacuum robot

TNO designed and built the EBL2 in conjunction with suppliers in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Arnold points to two partners in particular: ASYS Automatic Systems and USHIO. “The EUV light source was developed by USHIO, a Japanese light-source specialist. ASYS is responsible for the ultra-clean test-sample loading system, which involves the use of an atmospheric and vacuum robot. This project gave these companies a great opportunity to showcase their products’ performance.”

The EBL1

The EBL 1 (the forerunner of the EBL 2) is still in the VLL’s cleanroom at Delft. This test facility has been in service for ten years. But it is now rather dated, and its structure no longer complies with the requirements of the current EUV roadmap. The EBL1 has a less powerful EUV light source than the EBL2, so test procedures take much longer. Over the next few years, the new machine will take on the task of identifying the types of materials and components needed for the most advanced EUV lithography systems. ASML and Carl Zeiss SMT will not have exclusive access to the EBL2 – other parties in the semiconductor industry will be able to use it too.

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